The July 1 Variety article “Coffee-shop controversy is still brewing” misses the point of what the actual controversy was. The problem is not so much that the customers at a Starbucks in Philadelphia were nonpaying, but that they were treated differently because they were black men.

Let’s be completely honest here. If I were to go into any of the local establishments mentioned in the article, as a white woman I would (almost) always be given the benefit of the doubt and would be allowed to use a restroom without a purchase if I asked, especially if claimed I was waiting for someone. A person of color is much less likely to be given those benefits, especially black men. The problem here is that the rules are applied unevenly between white people and people of color. If an establishment is concerned about nonpaying customers, it needs to be consistent about its rules across the board.

Starbucks is trying to err in the other direction, ensuring that all people are given the same discretion and would be allowed in. Because the truth is, no matter what the rules of the establishment were, there was no need to call the police on those men. It would absolutely never have happened if they were white women.

Elise McDermott, Roseville

ABORTION

I am a feminist, and I am prolife. Let’s be clear about this issue.

Lori Sturdevant’s July 1 column, “Just like that, abortion is an issue in Minnesota this fall,” resorts to insults, stereotypes and inflammatory language to make her case. Let’s be honest — I have been in the prolife movement since the beginning. I have known many moderates and liberals (of which I am one) who are prolife. Conversely, I have also known many right-wingers who favor abortion. These are usually the eugenicists who believe only white protestants should be allowed to procreate — now those people scare me!

Let’s be clear about what we’re dealing with here: Abortion involves the taking of a human life, period. That’s why you’ll never see a protest rally opposing contraceptives or sterilization. These involve the separation or destruction of a sperm or egg, which by themselves can never become a human being.

I am a feminist, and I believe that we can create a better world for women and everyone else through peaceful, nonviolent measures. Human rights belong to all of us — born and unborn. Peace begins in the womb.

Kay Kemper, Crystal

HPV

Screening and vaccination are vital; what’s up in the U.S.?

I was pleased to see the July 4 headline concerning the HPV test as superior to Pap smear in detecting cervical cancer. I had just returned from a symposium in Haiti, where a coalition of partners is working to implement guidelines for HPV screening and treatment as well as vaccination with Gardasil. We currently have the ability to eradicate cervical cancer, not only in the U.S. but also in the world, with use of both the HPV test and vaccination of adolescent boys and girls with Gardasil.

Eighty-five percent of cervical cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, and this is soon to exceed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death among women in these countries. But Rwanda has been a shining example of what can be achieved: It has a 90 percent vaccination rate of adolescents with Gardasil.

It is concerning when the U.S. is falling behind developing world countries with a Gardasil vaccination rate of only 30 percent. Since HPV is also a factor in head and neck cancers, we have the ability to stem the rising incidence of these cancers. I urge every woman to not only get an HPV test every five years but also to make sure their sons and daughters receive their Gardasil vaccine. Women have changed the world in the past, and we can do so again.

Dr. Leslee Jaeger, Plymouth

The writer is an OB-GYN physician.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

A present-tense problem can’t wait for future-tense solutions

The July 2 letter “Can’t build without subsidies? True now, but change is coming” pointed to promising technologies as a way out of the state’s affordable-housing jam. However, some perspective is in order: Efforts to find technological game-changers are not new to affordable housing, and it is not only the construction process that determines housing affordability.

Suppliers of manufactured homes have long pointed to their product as the nation’s housing solution. Riding the wave of wanting a low-cost technological fix, Minnesota public funders and private foundations embraced modular construction in the 1990s but backed away when cost savings evaporated in the real-world application of theoretically promising technologies.

A more recent effort to find a way to lower the cost of affordable housing was the Minnesota Challenge contest. Applicants were asked to submit their best cost-saving ideas. The contest sponsors, including the state housing agency, ended up awarding their prize to a group that proposed not a flashy technology but a cluster of municipal ordinances, such as one reducing parking requirements for new rental developments.

While the letter writer encourages us to focus on the future of housing, I suggest the opposite. The damage to families lacking housing stability and to communities unable to house workers is with us now, and this calls for an immediate response employing the range of best practices that have emerged over the years.

These best practices do not just concern building technology but include housing-supportive local and state policies, financing techniques, and integration of social/employment services and housing. Public attention should focus on how best to pay for or adopt solutions currently available.

Chip Halbach, Minneapolis

The writer, now retired, founded and was a longtime executive director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.

VICTIMS’ ADVOCATES

I second the gratitude

I thoroughly agree with a July 4 letter about victim/witness advocates in Hennepin County. I also add condolences.

As a victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I supported victims of impaired driving in Hennepin County for 17 years, retiring a year ago.

It was evident from my first contact with the victim/service office that it housed an experienced and caring team.

I deeply appreciated the respect for my position as I worked with a nonprofit helping victims.

Those in the office welcomed me in the courtroom, promptly returned phone calls and deferred to MADD’s experience in supporting victims of impaired driving.

I personally want to thank victim advocates across Minnesota for their work. Being a victim of a crime can feel like floating around in a black hole without the support of the courts and law enforcement agencies.

Diane Homa, Blaine